Treating burnout

So, the negative symptoms of stress keeps spreading like wildfire.

What’s the best tools to battle or mitigate it?

What do you do when the stress gets too overwhelming and bothersome?

I tend mostly to that issue, and this approach seems to work quite well. Though… to solve a problem, we’ll have to know what the problem actually IS. So, the initial step is always to get a good enough analysis of the actual problem or problems, which is why there’s PLENTY of questions to begin with. That’s a part of acceptance, which is another thing to start out with. If you keep ignoring the problem you might as well keep digging your own grave until you’re done. You’ll need to stop digging and go in another direction!

Building new habits and tending to what’s important is crucial to getting better. I always start out by getting people to tend to mindfulness, pacing and having less stimuli. A tired mind needs to rest. Maslows first one or two steps are necessary to be able to recover; tending to low hanging fruit like EATING is useful. Everyone doesn’t do that, but everyone’s got to to survive.

To get a decent view of the mess we’re tending to we could start out by looking at some writing a client of mine did, I think it catches how wide this goes in a quite cute way.

“Two years ago I was put on sick leave after collapsing in the office. It was not the first time I collapsed, but so far I had always managed to get back on my feet. I pushed a bit further, refused to give up – only because I did not know how bad it was.

At first I was put on a two week sick leave. That seemed like a long time to me, but now I know that it’s not enough to recover from exhaustion syndrome, or what people generally refer to as burnout. It took me a very long time to even realize that I was ill. In addition, I was diagnosed with severe depression. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be able to treat either of the issues. Pills were tried as an intervention for sleep, anxiety and for the depressive symptoms, but with no success.

I was told to rest as much as possible, which was an impossible task. I was incredibly restless and I rarely slept more than two hours per night. My body was aching, my head felt empty and I was not able to control my emotions.

One day I stumbled across Patric. He was very straight-forward in telling me that my burnout and depression were not entirely work-related. I had some severe issues to deal with in my private life as well. He was quite certain that the body needed to be physically active to be able to relax and rest. Simply being passive and anxious wouldn’t do the trick, he said. “It certainly won’t vanish on its own!” and “Nothing ever solves itself”.This holistic approach seemed appealing to me – a mentor that could give me the tools I had been looking for. That was the best deal I have ever made and today I would like to share some of the tools and methods he used on me or that he helped me apply on my journey forward. From there on – up from the bottom and beyond where I had been before.

  • Physical activity instead of rest to make me fall asleep. In the beginning a few burpees was enough.
  • Doing small projects like painting a room.
  • Getting a social life. To be able to work more I had of course stopped seeing my friends and being social.
  • Find something or someone that made me feel safe so I could fall asleep. Sleeping is obviously important and was a huge issue.
  • Create a list to find the energy thieves and get rid of them.
  • … and a list of what gives energy. It could be watching snails, picking berries, gardening, tending to fire, cooking, looking for four-leaf-clovers, running…
  • When I felt worst, all I wanted to do was remain in a fetal position and cry. However… That won’t really solve any problems. So, yet again, it got treated with something pragmatic – it was okay to cry, but it could as well be done while taking a walk or during exercise. Not necessarily in an abusive way… Since the crying didn’t really stop if there was no intervention. Doing something about the stress however, did break the cycle and the crying could stop.
  • Sauna is perfect for letting the body and soul relax. Warm baths serve the same purpose and work just as well.
  • Spend time in nature. Using senses. Trying to be here and now. (Mindfulness!)
  • Run. Every step counts. Start small – and then go longer… longer… and for hours!
  • Laugh.
  • Read. Anything. Even a children’s book if that’s the current level.
  • Eat real food. I had stopped doing that ages ago to save time and the health issues kept the appetite low enough for me to live on practically nothing… But it seems we do need that fuel to be useful for… anything, really.
  • Splitting up the work day in short sessions. Take breaks.
  • Schedule and prioritize positive activities to make sure they get done.
  • Meditate.
  • Keep blank spaces in the calendar.
  • Stop worrying!
  • Realize that a job is just a job. Not the entire world.
  • Walk in the rain and take in the fresh air.
  • Don’t care what other people think.
  • I had to accept the situation as it was. “It won’t always be this bad.”
  • … and that I was not quite the same person as before. I had to stop trying to get back to being that person and go forward.
  • Celebrate my birthday! Something that I used to avoid like the plague.”

There’s plenty of ways to mitigate stress. The first, foremost and primary way is to change the situation! It’s reasonable to want to HANDLE the stress, but unless it’s necessary that sounds like a stupid solution. Acceptance of misery is useful when we’ve got no choice. That’s when it’s reasonable to try to handle and mitigate the negative aspects of the stress. To remove, change and alter your environment however. Delegate, automate – or perhaps just try saying no could remove what’s stressful and there’s no problem left. Another solution could actually be to stop getting worked up about it. Is whatever-you’re-getting-worked-up-for really useful and worth getting worked up for? To avoid getting too stressed, there’s handling life, pacing and time planning.

Handling life is about doing the right choices. That’s hard. I know.

Pacing and time planning are fancy words for “handling the aspects of life you’ve chosen in a balanced way where you’re not doing more than you can tolerate”. Make sure you’re not doing/planning/expecting/demanding more than what’s reasonable and possible. What’s your capacity? Don’t plan more than that. It won’t help. If you expect to do more than you possibly CAN do there’s no other option than getting stressed. Stressed… And you still didn’t get more done.

Then we get to the smaller things

Cardio works great to ventilate stress and blow off some steam. It won’t solve the PROBLEM if there’s one, but it will help you get a more comfortable feeling afterwards… or even quite soon after beginning. So, If you’re to use one thing to mitigate the feeling of stress, rather than remove it, it’s cardio, I’d say. Run, use your old bike, swim, do any kind of sports whatever it might be – or lift something decently heavy for a bunch of times. I try to implement some sort of this into all of my clients’ lives as soon as possible when we start. For the people I tend to close to me, it’s not rare that we run WHILE discussing things. Why not have a clear, calm mind while talking about the miseries of life? This works great both for less stress AND for anxiety.

Me-time, being alone and being comfortable. Just resting or doing your thing.

Mindfulness practice to find rest and not get stressed about “later”. It’s shown by now that the once so mystical and woo-woo mindfulness-thing is really useful for a bunch of things. Among them, stress. If you’re always thinking about the past or the future, what you’re supposed to have time for and do and old things you didn’t really like the first time you dealt with them, there’s nothing but getting stressed. If you practice being NOW there’s probably plenty to gain. 

Sauna. More and more studies are coming out showing that it’s got somewhat similar effects as working out…

Cold showers might be similar to the sauna. Is it the work out for the cardiovascular system that makes a difference or is it something else?

Decrease social media and get some peace of mind…

Peace and quiet, nothing and no stimulus from the rest of the world.

Sex has worked as a relieved of stress for quite some time.

But all this goes together with handling everything that’s been ruined from stress. If there’s anxiety now, that might not go away just from me-time. Perhaps you could get distracted from that anxiety by having sex – but that’s just avoiding the fact that somethings bothering you. That’ll bite you in the ass afterwards. Perhaps your relationship is horrible after “all of this” and now you’ll have to patch it together… Or break up. Perhaps there’s terrible insomnia haunting you at night. You’ll have to do something about that. This is where the cognitive behavioral therapy comes in. That’s a lovely solution for trouble with sleep and anxiety. The relationship? Well, that’s a question about facing fears and getting a grip of life. Taking responsibility and going in your valued direction. What do you value, where do you want life to go and what’s important to you? Those are big parts of life – and something I often have to dig in quite a lot with people.

If you’ve been ruined by stress it’s unlikely that you’ve gone in your valued direction. No one wants to have panic attacks and trouble sleeping. Perhaps you thought you did the right thing – but if so, now it’s time to rethink.

Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that make him sick.

They say Hippocrates said this. (But what do I know?)

If you want to get better, it’ll require change. My ambition is to teach people to take care of themselves. If you want o take care of yourself without me – reflect for a minute – how would you help a friend in your shoes? What would you have him or her do if you wanted the friend to learn how to preserve energy and recharge even more? How would you want the friend to change his or her life to make progress?

Look wide at every aspect of what bothers you. Look at physical parts that include things such as actual pathology, anatomy and physiology, neurology, food, exercise and movement.

Look at the psychology. It covers behaviors, values, goals as well as bothersome symptoms such as fatigue and how to handle it, thoughts and emotions that bother, trouble sleeping, anxiety and depression. This part usually include learning to focus on what’s truly desired and needed.

Environmental factors cover important social aspects, work related things and everything that might be under the socioeconomic umbrella. Perhaps things need to change for you to get a decent enough and restful place. Do you like your job and your relationships? Is it possible to change – or change perspective?

Nothing ever really fixes itself. So you’ll have to fix it yourself.

Change takes time, effort and plenty of the energy you’ve got. Where should you focus? What’s the biggest problem?

Look at everything life consists of to be able to deduce the most bothersome stressors. Get rid of enough of them. Solve the puzzles to get a decent balance and a level of stress that a human actually can manage.

Human lives are really complex so how and what to do or what treatment methods to use needs to be individualized, depending on what the situation looks like. Problems must be solved by tending to that specific problem, not a general one. We can’t simply “fix stress”.

Pretend you’re the one who who’ll show the way, and you’d get a view of how my shoes feel. I try to teach, hold hands or point in the right direction. I might have to be grim, bold and blunt at times to make it more of a nudge or in some cases a shove with words… if that’s even possible…? My ambition and goal is to get you out of here. You MUST get OUT. Wherever that is; it’s not the same place as you started in when you got bothered, that’s for sure. I always strive to get people the power to take control of their own lives, get past this temporary obstacle and get even better afterwards.

This is a bump in the road. There are tools to take care of the stress, but plenty of it is about LIFE. If you handle life you’ll be fine.

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